Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I lost a world the other day...

Now that I'm not running for awhile, I have some time on my hands. I could use it for reflection.

I went out and bought The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. I love her poems, and other than Shakespeare, I look to her the most for inspiration when I'm deeply moved by things.

She apparently wrote 1,775 poems before she died in 1886 at the age of 55. Here's one from the Time and Eternity section.

I lost a world the other day.
Has anybody found?
You'll know it by the row of stars
Around its forehead bound.

A rich man might not notice it;
Yet to my frugal eye
Of more esteem than ducats.
Oh, find it, sir, for me!

Uh, I think runnin' means a lot to me. Who knew?

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Man I was feeling great on my run on Friday morning. I was flying along two miles from home, six miles into my 3rd eight mile run in 4 days. It wasn't even 7 o'clock yet and I had polished off two miles of hill work and thrown in a 7:55 mile. I had physical therapy for my ailing hip coming up and I wasn't due in to work til noon.

As I bestrode the roadway, I isolated the pain deep in my left hip-joint which has bedeviled me since April. Back then I did a 10-mile race in 1:16:05 (fast for me) on a concrete roadway. Since then, my hip has ached worse and worse and I had worried that now that I'm 55, maybe that was my last good race forever. A good running friend had recently suggested that I had better complete the runs that I wanted to do soon. I didn't smile as she made her pronouncement in a room filled with younger running mates.

Joking, she later said. Not so funny, I thought.

The pain was still in the deep recesses of my left hip but boy, was it better. It used to be a large pain that was difficult to manage. Now it was a tiny pain and getting better, no doubt about it.

I'd taken five days off running a few weeks ago and I had chaffed at the bit then, but I was roaring back now. I'd missed my long run for the week last Sunday when I helped A move out of town that day instead of running sixteen miles with her as we had originally planned . Sometimes real life just happens.

But this run was going to put me over 30 miles for the week and my running was going good. Chicago was in ten weeks, where I'd be trying to keep up with A as I took aim at the 3:50 barrier. Man, I was back and my training was right where it should be. I'd done two fourteens and a fifteen already and I was planning on doing Riley's Rumble Half two days hence. As I cruised along I was thinking that I'd do my twenty next weekend.

I had just gone by a pretty girl running the opposite direction which had put a spring in my step. I looked down the front of my saturated technical shirt where it lay unmoving, wetly stuck to my chest and stomach. The clinging polyester material had crept onto a ridge or two and outlined them. Hey, was that a washboard down there? Well, no, but the plaster effect wasn't highlighting a lazy American's roundly mounded belly either. Boys love sweaty images, girls hate 'em. Ewwww.

Choices. Up ahead there was a short stretch where the roadway crimped down to twenty-four feet of width with no shoulders. Being a former cop, I always think of the worst that could happen and make a plan. There was no traffic around but a car could approach me from the front while another could drive up behind me and then I'd have to blindly trust the drivers' appreciation for the constriction if I was in the lane. I took to the hard concrete sidewalk for a brief bit.

The sidewalk ended against a four foot wide intersecting strip of flat grassland that led back to the resumed shoulder of the roadway. One step onto that grassy median would propel me past the curb and back into the widened street. The W&OD Trail leading, literally, to my back yard was a quarter mile ahead.

The top surface of the grass was both short and even. It had obviously been mowed recently. I quickly surveyed it while running up on it, choosing my spot of transition. There was nothing chancey about what I was going to do.

But my left foot didn't firmly plant on level ground under a quarter inch of crushed grass as I had anticipated. There was a hidden hole down there that was the size and shape of a cereal bowl, invisible under the even top level of the grass. I stepped right into it and my foot rolled. How bad, I thought as it happened.

I staggered like I'd been shot and almost pitched forward onto my face in the asphalt beyond. I have gone down once in seven years of running, when I had tripped over something in the dark. This was a close second.

My worst foot injury ever. I knew it instantly. I had felt the adhesion around my ankle give a little bit.

I was instantly enraged.

I hadn't been careless. It was just my turn. I flung down my water bottle with an expletive, thinking instantly of Chicago. The plastic bottle burst. So much for carrying that pound of water for six miles.

I walked home with an increasing limp. It didn't hurt yet but I knew hell-to-pay was coming. How many weeks, I wondered.

I cursed a blue streak aloud. Effen this and goldang that. Bicyclists passing me undoubtedly thought I was a runner spouting particularly virulent epitaphs at them. Runners gave the crazy man a wide berth.

I wouldn't look any passerby in the eye. Limping along, I felt oddly embarrassed, like I'd done something wrong. One runner, a woman pushing a child in a stroller, asked me if I was alright. Sweet mother! In forty years maybe we will still be an extant species after all.

So... Nothing is broken. Just ruptured blood vessels. And a slightly swollen, mottled and painful foot.

It didn't feel too bad yesterday but I think that was the 800MG Motrin talkin'. I haven't taken any meds today and it hurts. Although I can walk okay (I gimp around like Chester in Gunsmoke, perhaps only David in Florida would recognize that reference), my left ankle feels weak or tired.

I'm not anxious to rush out onto the W&OD and try it out. Meanwhile my proudly noted recently-felt conditioning is emitting a whooshing sound as it flows out of my body. Arghh.

I emailed to Not Born To Run that life sucks right now. She okayed me wallowing in self-pity for awhile. But only a short while, she said.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Moving A

One of my running buddies, A, moved out of town last weekend. She and I didn't get our planned last long run in. Sigh. (Saying goodbye to A after her last day at work two weeks ago.)

You'll remember, our supposed 16-mile run two Sundays ago turned into a 14-mile slog for me right up to the doorstep of heat exhaustion in the sweltering July heat. Fortunately I didn't step through that dangerous doorway thanks to A paying close attention to our surroundings and recognizing certain danger signals that were present with me. That's what running buddies do; the run itself isn't the supreme thing, safety is. We were going to do it right last Sunday, run sixteen miles on the same trail with an earlier start before she left town for good later that day.

I went over to her basement apartment on Capitol Hill on Saturday to help her with moving. Everything A was bringing to the bustling urban center in the south she was moving to had to fit into her car. Everything else was being discarded, either in a yard sale, on Craig's List, to charity, to friends or to the curb. Talk about a fresh start!

I helped A assemble a metal two-foot wide bumper skirt that attached to the trailer hitch on the back of her car so she could strap extra items such as her cherished rocking chair onto this platform. Since her tool box was a mish-mash of English and metric allen wrenches, we never could get the unit satisfactorily tightened because no wrench fit snugly as we turned the nuts onto the threads of the bolts. I felt like I was back in 1970, working on my 185 CC Yamaha Enduro in the courtyard of my coed freshman dorm in Boulder. Those were the days! Hey, we had a war we were all protesting back then too, along with a President who also wouldn't listen. But he actually had a more commanding presence than this current one W, which I take it stands for worst ever. Mission accomplished, anyone? Where's Dick?

A wasn't doing so well, having had her going away night-on-the-town party the previous evening, so we broke for lunch, dropping off gobs of clothing at a charitable outlet enroute. What a lodestone of nice apparel for all those rail-slender six-foot-three women who shop regularly at Martha's Table. Over lunch, we abandoned the notion of running our 16 miles the following morning. There was a lot A still had to do to be able to get out of town the next day. Running is life, but sometimes life intrudes. Sigh. (With H and A immediately after the NYCM. A paced me the last ten miles and enabled me to PR by 75 seconds when I was flagging. The mostly silent crowds in the Bronx broke into cheers when she came by. I wonder why?)

Revived by food, we returned to work. We used my pickup to drop off a dresser at someone's house just past Lincoln Park. We drove a teak and marble sideboard dry bar unit over to Dupont Circle and hauled that heavy sucker up to the third floor of a tall Brownstone. The recipient looked on worriedly every time A or I groaned as the two of us strained at each hellish turn in the narrow stair hallway. Let me tell you something, A is strong! She can be my moving buddy anytime.

We picked up A's friend Helika on the return trip, who was going to help with the packing. This was where I bowed out for the evening, to let the women do the fine work now that the brute work was done. Helika was a true friend because when I returned the next day, A's place had been transformed. Entropy had been curtailed as nearly everything was in a box or plastic bag. That had been a huge job.

Sunday was a whirlwind of packing the car like a suitcase. The back of the interior and the trunk were already done. A is so well liked in her neighborhood that on both days, an eclectic assortment of neighbors and acquaintances came by to help her with various tasks like breaking apart her bed unit and hauling the components away or loading the bumper skirt. By 4 pm the car was packed to the bursting point, with the load on the bumper skirt causing that platform sag to within four inches of the ground. There was space enough for A in the driver's seat, and barely space for Jake her dog in the passenger seat. That was a dog wild with neurosis for two days, following A around incessantly as things vanished from the apartment piece by piece. (Game faces on. My teammates and workmates G and A before the 2007 Capitol Hill Classic 3K. G won the 3K race twenty minutes after running the 10K version. A took off like a rocket hard on his heels and finished second, fifth overall. A did the double last year when she came in fourth in the 3K, a few seconds behind Bex who claimed the bronze in 2006.)

After a final goodbye, A drove away. Bye, A, I'll miss you. See you at Chicago.

(A made it safely to her destination. Go help her out at Chicago by making a donation to the charitable cause she's running for.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Precautionary Summer's Tale

A is leaving town for good so last Sunday morning I was going to do a last LSD with her, 16 miles, as we both get ready for Chicago in twelve weeks. I recently did 14 with A, and also a 15. A hasn’t done a 16 yet, ever.

I was late, showing up at 7:40 am for our 7:30 run. All I had to eat or drink that morning was two cups of diced fruit in heavy syrup. We got underway at 7:50 after stretching. I carried a half liter of water.

Two weeks earlier I had run 15 miles at a steady 9:00 pace that deteriorated to a 9:15 pace the last few miles. A kept us locked on 9:30s for this run.

We went southbound through Alexandria on the Mt. Vernon Trail for 8 miles and turned around. By now it was after 9 am and the day was heating up fast. My technical shirt was saturated and hanging heavily off me.

Going back I started getting really tired. I finished my water. I was also hungry. I hadn’t brought anything to eat.

A stopped in the comfort station at 12 miles and I gratefully walked a quarter mile til she caught up again.

Going through Old Town, I felt terrible. I couldn’t keep up with A anymore and I couldn’t talk to her through my heavy breathing. I couldn’t catch my breath and my jaw and shoulders ached. My heart was racing and I was really sweating. It was 92 degrees by now and humid. Shit, I thought, there are only two miles to go. Some recess of my mind said, there are two miles to go.

I didn't think I could make two more miles. Two more miles? How could this be? I stopped and started walking. A stopped also and walked besides me. She offered me her water which I waved off. She apologized for having ingested her one Gu a few miles back and not offering me half, not knowing I hadn’t brought any. I said that was ridiculous, I could have brought Gu.

I took off my hat and shrugged out of my shirt. Sweat was pouring off me. I felt like I might fall down so I went over to the grass and sat down. A urged me not to sit down but I said I felt "black spotty." The grass had turned from green to sepia toned. A sat down beside me, watching me carefully.

I drank all of A’s water. I sucked in long breaths. I kept apologizing to A for "ruining" her 16 miler. (Her first 16 miler.) She said that was ridiculous.

After awhile, I got up and walked it in. I couldn’t run anymore, although I tried. A walked with me for most of the way and then ran ahead to her car when we were close. She brought back some fluids, Gatorade and water. I sucked the warm Gatorade down and it made me feel much better.

We went out for a post-run brunch. I uncharacteristically ordered a steak and a soda. Afterwards I spent several hours in my bedroom with the A/C unit going full blast.

I am a veteran runner. I can do sixteen miles easily, if not well. Sure it makes me tired and sore but it shouldn’t make me quit. But this shows what a fool I had been.

This is a precautionary tale. The admonition pride goeth before the fall springs to mind.

A summer morning might seem benign but can be dreadfully enervating because of rapidly rising temperature and humidity. It’s potentially dangerous. Lessons for long runs in the heat are:

  • Respect the weather, always.
  • Hydrate before the run.
  • Hydrate during the run (16 ounces wasn’t enough). (But don’t go crazy and over-hydrate.)
  • Fuel your body (eat enough before the run, and bring some energy replenishment, if only as a precaution).
  • Bring money (to buy water or for a transit ride or to use a pay phone).
  • Run with someone.
  • Stop when you aren’t feeling right and make sure people around you know that you’re feeling distressed.
  • Wear some ID, maybe affixed to your shoe.
I was worried that A wouldn’t ever run with me again. Not to worry, we’re doing the same 16 on Sunday, before she drives out of town for the last time. This time we're going to start at 6 am. This time I won't be late. This time we're going to get 'er done!

A was a real sweetheart about it, a veritable lifesaver. I’m gonna miss her! So is the DC running community.

(Three perfectly lovely ladies. Not Born To Run and Bex say goodbye to A. We'll see you on the trails!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Journey

My journey started with the 2005 Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Race in DC. I ran terribly, 1:27:24 (8:44 pace), a backwards slide of 5:51 from the previous year.

As a result, that summer I joined my local running club’s 10-Mile Training Program, pointing towards the Army 10-Miler in October. I put down as my goal a 1:20 (8:00 pace).

I learned how to run in a group. Before that I had always run alone. I discovered there was a synergy in running with a group, that slower runners got better by trying to hang with faster runners, who in turn got stronger by running conscientiously for the benefit of the group.

My reward was a 2:19:44 Metric Marathon (16.4 miles) (8:35 pace) upon "graduation." Even though it was hilly, it went down easy.

The next spring I sent in my application for the 10K Training Program. The program director sent it back and asked me to be a coach instead. I was flattered and readily agreed. I enjoyed planning out a training program, having runners seek my advice (as though I knew stuff) and watching them all get better.

I coached the fast group during the 10-Mile Training Program last summer. My runners did very well at Army, with one at 1:19:15 and several more in the low 1:20s. I PRed by over three minutes in 1:14:34 (7:27 pace). I was in the best shape of my life.

Almost a year later, things are a little more complicated now. New responsibilities, as well as an injury, have intervened. I took on directorship of the two training programs this year and learned what a headache ultimate responsibility is. Everyone has a pet idea, and you gotta make ‘em all work.

The 10K Training Program in the spring went well. We had 39 participants, of whom 19 ran the target race. Four finished under an hour and one finished under 50 minutes. Uhh, that was me. The program received great help from Bex, who finished fourth in the target race’s accompanying 3K race, and Not Born To Run.

On Saturday the first meeting of the 10-Mile Training Program was held. The two wonderful run/walk coaches had unexpectedly bowed out of the program at the last moment. I was expecting disaster.

But Jeanne pitched in to help again. (Bex is moving away.) Last year’s program director showed up with her coaching certificate to help out. Three other wonderful new coaches came as well, with one or two more coming next week. Forty runners showed up hoping to get a quality workout.

The three large groups that went out ran from three to six miles on the National Mall at a good pace. The weather cooperated as the morning wasn’t too hot or humid. The National Parks policeman who joined our group as it gathered to keep an eye on us didn’t shoo us away from our meeting point at the Lincoln Memorial. Everybody was talking excitedly upon our return from our runs, forming new friendships and rekindling old ones. Can the journey get any better than that?

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Encounter

A week ago Saturday I took a trip to New York City to visit my brother and go to Coney Island. Specifically I went to ride the Cyclone (it alone was worth the trip) and to see a minor league baseball game on Coney Island. I am attempting to see a baseball game at every current major league stadium and now that I have reduced my "wish list" to six (there are thirty major league parks), I have been branching out to watch games at minor league stadiums.

The baseball game was a joy. The new ballpark has a nice ocean vista along with nice views of two nearby protected historic structures of yesteryear, the abandoned, towering Parachute Jump and the Cyclone. Like all minor league parks, once we were inside we roamed around at will. Players were even signing autographs.

The home team Brooklyn Cyclones (a Mets affiliate) won 8-6, coming back from a 5-0 deficit. Several balls flew out of the park. My brother actually caught a foul ball. That was thrilling. Being a Class A game, a few innings went on for a long time. Sorta like watching T-Ball. Anyone with kids knows what I mean. Interestingly, KeySpan Park has distance to deep center that is two feet further than at Shea Stadium.

The next morning I left my brother's and walked over to see Shea Stadium. To get from his house in Flushing (Queens) to the park you have to traverse a highway bridge over a vast wasteland of Belt Parkways, a turgid creek and auto repair shops. He thought I was taking my life in my hands to do this even in broad daylight.

But once at Willets Point, I walked around the brand new stadium being built for the Mets in the parking lot next door to Shea. It's an emerging steel skeleton right now, right across the street from a long row of muffler shops, auto glass places and body shops. It's like a shantytown devoted to auto repair out there. There aren't going to be any spectacular views from the new stadium like in, say, the new Pittsburgh baseball park.

My brother tells me the plan is to move all the auto shops out and gentrify the place with condos and shops. But there are rumors that there's a lot of chop-blocking going on out there, Mafia controlled, and those shops ain't moving. Shea is like certain other baseball parks which are set down in the middle of nowhere and where half an hour after a game, everyone is gone. Atlanta comes to mind.

Then I got aboard Greyhound and returned home for $68 round trip. At the bus terminal in DC, instead of walking the three quarters of a mile to the Metro stop at Union Station, I went a half mile the other direction on this Sunday afternoon to the Gallaudet University station. A friend I was telling this to later thought I was taking my life in my hands to do this even in broad daylight. It was an interesting walk down an absolutely deserted street bordered by vacant warehouses on one side and the raised train tracks on the other. As I walked along I counted the number of square patches of broken auto glass in the street next to the curb every eighteen feet, where a recent smash and grab operator had been at work on parked cars during the weekday. There were an even dozen.

There was life at the Metro station in the form of the station attendant in his booth at the fare gates downstairs, myself and one other patron who was a transient. No matter where I went on the platform, he followed me. A train came by and we both got on the same car. He sat down opposite me, staring at me before he spoke.

"What year'd cha do it in?"

I thought about his remark, and alighted upon the fact that I was wearing a Marine Corps Marathon ball cap.


"I did it in 2003. I'm trying to get automatic entry."

I looked him over. Ragged clothes, pretty much toothless, carrying around two plastic bags full of stuff, a typical homeless guy. (Disgracefully, Washington our nation's capital is full of them.) Maybe he was a runner although it seemed doubtful.

"How many you need to run to get that?"


"How many more you got to do?"

"Four. How many you done?"

"Only one Marine Corps. I don't run the same marathon twice, there are so many out there."

"Huh. You run others?"

"Yeah, you know. Baltimore. Columbus."

"The thing I like about the Marine Corps one is that extra bit they add at the end. It's all uphill, to the statue. It's just like the Marines, they always got to be better or longer or somethin'."

"I think they're all the same distance."

"No no, the Marines add that extra, what is it, three hunnerd yards? Marines gotta do that. What makes 'em special."

"Yeah. Those Marines. You ever in them?"

He had been, in the eighties, He happily told me all about it. It was very interesting to hear.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Cyclone Redux

Photos from my ride last week on the Coney Island Cyclone (see my last post for a description of the ride).

What's all that screamin' behind me? (Photo credit J.)

Clackety-clack clackety-clack...

The fateful split-second pause at the top. Hey, look to the right beyond the Ferris Wheel at the abandoned Parachute Jump from the 1939 World's Fair, now a New York City Landmark, in old Steeplechase Park where they built KeySpan Park, home of the Single A Short Season Minor League Brooklyn Cyclones, a Mets' affiliate. I'm goin' to that park tonight to see them play the Jamestown Jammers. I wonder if anyone will come see them when they tear down this Amusement Park at the end of this season. Hmmm, nice view.......................................... Aieeeeeeeee.........!!!!
Hold on! It'll be over in one minute and fifty seconds.

Whew. The Cyclone Wooden Compact Twister. Been there, done that. (Photo credit J.)

My brother chickened out.....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Cyclone

Clackety-clack, clackety-clack. The noisy chain drew the three-car train up the narrow tracks that climbed practically straight up the first tall hill made out of wooden crossbeams and supporting struts. The open-air cars shivered and shook. The people ensconced in the twelve rows of double seats had a magnificent view of Astroland Amusement Park eighty-five feet below them, filled with people. Further out, beyond the boardwalk and beach, the sun dappled Atlantic Ocean glinted as it stretched to the horizon.
This was the Cyclone on Coney Island, the world famous granddaddy of all wooden roller coasters, built in 1927 and now a New York City Landmark. At the end of the season Astroland will be torn down, the land having been sold to developers. The Cyclone will remain, but will it stay open? I had never ridden the Cyclone and I wasn't going to miss my chance.

I traveled to Brooklyn on Saturday and now I was in a roller coaster car, perched atop the first steep hill of the one-minute and fifty-second ride. The car stopped for a fraction of a second, then plunged over the edge and went straight down. Everybody screamed as we roared towards the ground at 60 MPH. Suddenly the car jerked left. Everybody’s head snapped to the right. Up another hill. Down the other side. Sharp right turn this time. Our heads snapped to the left. We shot up another hill, slighter than before, and endured another dizzying descent. Up and over again. Straight up. Straight down. The hills were diminishing in height but the turns remained as fast and tight as ever. Then we were thundering into the loading area and rapidly decelerating. The car stopped.

A sign there read, "Ride Again $4." Quite a deal, since the first ride had cost $6. As I walked out, a hawker said, "Ride again? Three bucks." "Nahh," I murmured. My clacking, careening ride on the Cyclone was already stored in my memory, in the "terrific" section.

I don’t like riding modern metal roller coasters with their excessive speed, nauseating corkscrew turns and smooth vibration-free transitions. But the clattering, lurching, shaking ride aboard this compact wood twister had been the perfect length, speed and thrill. I headed towards the boardwalk in search of the original Nathan’s so I could sample an authentic Coney Island Dog.

Running update. I want to thank Susan for her generous support of my intention to run Chicago in the fall for a charity, A Running Start. My training is on hold right now. The day after my July 4th race, I ran a mile at an eight minute pace to see how my injured left leg was feeling. Not good. I have decided to rest it. I haven’t run for five days now and it's driving me crazy.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Fourth of July

On the morning of the Fourth, I ran a 5K race in Potomac, Maryland with Jeanne. I run a race every Fourth of July.

In 2001, I ran a 5-miler in Fredericksburg in under 40 minutes which pleased me, so I didn't run another 5-miler until last year because I was afraid I'd "ruin" my 40 minute benchmark in the next one (I didn't). In 2002, I ran a 6K in Baltimore in over 30 minutes which displeased me, so I had to wait a whole year to run it again so I could get this oddball distance under 30 minutes (I did). Who says runners are obsessed with numbers?

In 2004, I ran a 25:51 at the Cure Autism Now 5K in Potomac. I ran it again the next year in order to break 25 minutes on the somewhat hilly course but guess what? I ran exactly 25:00 so that didn't count. Last year I had a good day and passed over the finish line at just over 23 minutes. This year I ran the Potomac race again in a relaxed manner, having met my goals there, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

However, I have been dealing with a tendinitis issue in my left leg since April. It limited me to running just 50.5 miles in May. Since I'm getting ready for Chicago in October, I bumped that up to 100 miles in June but it caused my leg to get worse again. (Pain is not merely weakness leaving the body.).

July 1st I did an LSD of 15 miles at a 9:20 pace and although the leg felt alright during the run, it felt like fire afterwards. I tried to run the next day but quit after a block. I legged out 2 1/4 miles the following day leading the weekly running group at work and then did the relaxed July Fourth 5K.

Coming back from the race, I decided how best to enjoy the rest of the holiday. Rather than jostle with the masses on the Mall to view the fireworks, I figured out how to watch the Falls Church fireworks from a really good, really close-up spot.

The second tallest structure in Falls Church is the six-level parking garage at West Falls Church Metro which overlooks the town's high school playing fields. (You can see the town's tallest structure from there, the enormously tall back-stop costing hundreds of thousands of dollars behind home plate on the baseball field which prevents foul balls from sailing onto cars speeding by on Interstate-66 one hundred feet away.) The city launches its fireworks every year at 9:30 pm from the football field, one hundred yards away from the parking structure.

My idea was to park my pickup truck atop the parking garage in a spot overlooking the football field and watch the show from a front-row seat in my car. At noon I parked in the last remaining space along the wall nearest the field. Other folks evidently had the same idea. I ran home from there, an even mile, in 7:55. My leg hurt.

In the evening a friend dropped by and we walked to the parking structure where we clambered onto the bed of my pickup. We sat and watched the thirty-minute pyrotechnic display as it literally unfolded right before our eyes. It was spectacular! (My pickup. Hey, how do you like my cool 26.2 oval magnet below the rear window?)

The only downside was that after the fireworks it took an hour to get my truck out of the packed parking garage so I could drive my friend to her car. The next day, of course, was a work day.

I also called and left a message for my oldest child, a 21-Y.O. who lives in Arlington with his Mother. I asked him to call me to say whether he'd like to go with me when British soccer superstar David Beckham and his team play against the DC United at RFK.

I regret that my estranged son never returned my call. He was victimized as a boy by a form of child abuse known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), which is the deliberate destruction of the other parent's bond with a child by the parent with primary physical custody and his or her coterie of hired gunslinger "professionals."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

If you can't beat 'em...

I was invited to run a Fourth of July 5K race with Jeanne. You all know Jeanne, she hides behind the misnomer of Not Born To Run.

Well, we all know that she has burned two marathons. She's been to Boston. She has smoked many 5Ks and an 8K here or a 20K there. The only thing that ever got ahead of Jeanne was surgery earlier this year, that she is just now coming back from.

How could anyone turn down down an invitation to run in a race with Jeanne? The publicity value alone is immeasurable. Whenever she posts something, she gets a dozen comments right away, guaranteed.

I arrived in Potomac (MD) at the Cure Autism Now (CAN) 5K this morning hoping that my trepidation wasn't showing. There I found out that Jeanne's daughter, known worldwide as NOD, was running too! She's even faster than Jeanne. It's in the genes.

This wasn't fair. I felt like an Ethiopian amongst a bunch of Kenyans. Early in the race they'd surround me and take turns setting a pace that would grind me into the pavement. I started to run through my usual running ailments to see which one I would advance for DNFing. But then Jeanne said grandly that we didn't have to worry about NOD, she was going for a PR today and wouldn't be running with us. She was going to jackrabbit off at the start.

Whew. One less person I'd have to worry about keeping up with.

I thought maybe I could hang with Jeanne, because she was still recuperating from surgery and I knew her training hadn't fully kicked in yet. I was determined to give it a try. Maybe today would be the day I caught her off form and took her in a race.

The gun went off and we set out. CAN is one of those hot, hilly and humid races everyone is told to avoid. The first half mile was crowded and up a grade. We started too far back (at least one of my stratagems worked) so we were immediately hemmed in and slowed down by the crush of runners on the narrow two lane rural roadway (no shoulders). I caught a real break here.

It took us practically a mile to break into the clear. I had to shove aside a child or two to keep up with Jeanne who kept going to open spots and getting ahead of me. NOD was already way out front and it didn't seem likely that she would "come back to us" today, she was running so effortlessly.

Jeanne was running relaxed too, obviously concentrating on her breathing. She worked her arms nicely on the uphills and seemingly glided on the downhills. You could learn a lot from watching her run a race.

We passed MP 1 at 9:55. Uh-oh, way fast. I started talking to Jeanne in short bursts between ragged gasps to distract her. I told her stories about my recent running escapades, which she'd already read on my blog. My brain couldn't conjure up new stories. Jeanne politely engaged in the conversation and even asked me a question or two. Do you know how many people there were in the 13 original colonies? I guessed 2.6 million. Wrong! 2.5 million.

The morning was heating up. Whenever we passed a lawn sprinkler system spraying the street, I veered over to run through it to cool down, and Jeanne politely followed. I told her we should walk through the water stop, and she accommodated me. I caught a breather as I slowly drank from my cup. Jeanne seemed rarin' to go but I kept giving her the cheers sign with a raised cup to show her I wasn't finished yet. We passed MP 2 in 10:03, still too fast but better.

The third mile, a series of rolling hills, stretched out endlessly. My pace was slowing down and I was back to thinking of which typical running ailment I could pull out to insist on a walking break. Jeanne was eying me closely and listening to my breathing. "Why don't we walk for a minute?" she said gently. I felt like I would live after all!

The break was over all too soon. Noting my red, flushed face, she suggested another walking break half a mile further on. More mantra from heaven! We passed MP 3 in 11:20. That was more like it!

The finish at CAN is a 150 meter downhill straight stretch where you can see the race clock the whole way. With the finish line in sight and a nice downhill to run on, I took heart. I was even with the great Not Born To Run late in a race! Notions of tomorrow's headlines flashed through my mind. Peter Catches Jeanne on her Return From Surgery. It would be grand.

Jeanne sped up. But so did I. We ran down the hill side by side, arms pumping, legs driving. I was sucking in oxygen, trying to lengthen my stride so I could edge her out. The finish! The finish! Only twenty yards away!

Huh? Jeanne beat me by three full seconds. It was like, suddenly she was just gone. I swear I saw a little burst of trailing dust in the air, like in the roadrunner cartoons, as she accelerated into the finishing chute and left me flatfooted behind her.

To be honest, I think she was toying with me the whole race. Her last split was 1:00 for a finishing time of 32:18 (10:24); mine was 1:03 for a finishing time of 32:21 (10:25). She cleaned my clock that last 20 meters. What a finishing kick!

NOD was waiting for us. She had been unconscious while she raced and finished in 29:40 (9:33!), a PR. Well, she is younger.

Thanks for the great race, Jeanne.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Returning home from Lake Tahoe

On my California trip last month, after I left Lake Tahoe, I spent a few hours in Golden Gate Park drinking in the breathtaking vistas of the Bay area and then I went to an evening baseball game at the home park of the SF Giants with H, one of my Lake Tahoe running mates. I think the park currently is known as AT&T Park, but who cares? (Above: Goodbye, Lake Tahoe (thanks again, Bex).)

A hobby of mine is to attend baseball games at different ballparks. When I was in California to run the Inaugural Disneyland Half Marathon last September, I saw games in three parks I hadn't visited before, the current homes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland Athletics and the San Diego Padres. I also spent a few hours walking around the outside of Candlestick Park, the last home of the SF Giants. It's home now to the SF 49ers and called something else, but who cares? It'll always be Candlestick to me. I regret that I never saw a game there.

I was meeting H at our seats in the LF corner by the foul pole. The night didn't start out right when I got totally lost trying to find the stadium. (It's on the water by the Bay Bridge. How hard could it be?) I finally drove up and discovered that parking was $30.

I turned around and drove away from the stadium until there were no longer any signs prohibiting parking and parked. Uhh, it wasn't so great a neighborhood. I walked back to the stadium, about a mile, and went to our seats where I met H.

It's a lovely new stadium of the typical topical retro design. Think Camden Yards in a chillier city with a water panorama instead of a warehouse view. And much more expensive parking. Really, with one or two exceptions, the new stadiums all look pretty much the same. Which is, gimmicky. But if you're ever in Pittsburgh...

It was June but it was cold. I bought some pricey garlic fries, which is supposed to be indigenous to the Bay area, but the cupful of cold fries I received was a stuck-together soggy mess. The stadium struck out on the food score as it had already struck out on the pricing score.

The interesting thing about the game was watching Giants left-fielder Barry Bonds. I don't need to bring anybody on the planet up to date on the steroid controversy that swirls around "Mr. Big Head."

Bonds misplayed two fly balls that led to an early lead for the Giants' opponents, the Toronto Blue Jays. But then he hit home run, career number 747 (eight behind Hammerin' Hank Aaron's hallowed, drug-free record) that put the Giants permanently in the lead. The place went wild. Those San Franciscans love him. I have to admit, I was sullen about his exploit, not that I care a whit about the Giants or the Blue Jays. I think his tainted pursuit of Aaron's record is a non-event, and every Giants win in which Bonds hits a home run should be disqualified and awarded to the other team.

Afterwards my car was still there and I drove H to her hotel by Fisherman's Wharf. Then I drove over the Bay Bridge to the San Joaquin valley. Catnapping in truck stop service center parking lots, I made LA by the next day. After attending Knotts Berry Farm Theme Park in Anaheim to while away some hours, I caught a red-eye at the Long Beach airport and arrived back at Dulles early the next morning, my second California vacation in a year complete. Both vacations were heavily running oriented (Disneyland Half and Lake Tahoe Relay). None of my friends from before I started running in 2000 can figure it out. Wait, I have no friends left from before I started running in 2000. Here's to all of my new friends.